Pitzer Student Senate calls for McConnell to stop serving beef

The outside of Pitzer College's dining hall surrounded by cacti.
The Pitzer Student Senate passed a resolution calling on McConnell Dining Hall to eliminate beef dishes on its menu. (Stella Favaro • The Student Life)

If Pitzer Student Senate gets its way, students hoping to chow down on a burger, steak or other beef products won’t be able to sate their appetite at Pitzer College’s McConnell Dining Hall anymore.

Pitzer Senate passed a resolution 11-1 last month calling for McConnell to eliminate all beef offerings due to the growing climate crisis associated with greenhouse gas emissions, of which beef production plays a part. 

According to Elijah Falk PZ ’20 and Samuel Sjoberg PZ ’20, two Pitzer College students invested in environmental advocacy, eliminating beef from McConnell will help Pitzer reduce its carbon footprint.

“We started this initiative because of the severity and intensity of the increasing climate catastrophe,” Falk and Sjoberg said in a joint statement to TSL. “Climate change is not an issue to be dealt with in the future, it is happening as we speak and its effects are already catastrophic.” 

Between 14.5 and 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from livestock, according to The New York Times. In fact, the meat and dairy industry outpaces the world’s top oil companies — the primary focus of many campaigns aiming to reduce carbon emissions — in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.

“Beef is responsible for 41 percent of emissions within the sector of livestock,” Falk and Sjoberg said. “The elimination of beef at Pitzer is an impactful mitigation strategy for a relatively small sacrifice.”

A recent study found that replacing beef with chicken can cut a person’s dietary carbon footprint in half, according to National Geographic.

Earlier in the semester, Falk and Sjoberg approached Caroline Joseph PZ ’20, a member of the Pitzer Senate who’s also passionate about the climate crisis. They said she proposed the resolution in support of eliminating beef in McConnell, which Senate passed Nov. 10.

However, the decision will ultimately be made by Pitzer’s treasurer’s office, according to Falk and Sjoberg. 

Complete elimination of beef would be a powerful declaration from Pitzer that puts it at the forefront in the national push for environmental sustainability practices, the two said. 

While Laura Troendle, vice president of administration, finance and treasurer, said she’s supportive of Falk and Sjoberg’s “vision,” she has concerns about the ban.

“We started this initiative because of the severity and intensity of the increasing climate catastrophe … Climate change is not an issue to be dealt with in the future, it is happening as we speak and its effects are already catastrophic.” – Elijah Falk PZ ’20 and Samuel Sjoberg PZ ’20

“I also need to consider the dietary needs and desires of the entire Pitzer community,” she said. “The resolution was approved with only 11 votes which may not indicate strong support from the student community.”

Pitzer Senate President Clint Isom PZ ’20 echoed Troendle, adding that it’s his duty to work with the administration to implement Senate’s legislation and despite the resolution’s approval, he doesn’t feel comfortable eliminating beef at McConnell without further discussions with the student body.

“I would just like everyone to know that our beef will remain untouched until we get more buy-in from students,” he said in a statement to TSL.

However, according to Senate meeting notes, Joseph rejected a suggestion from another senator that Senate should poll the student body on the topic, noting that such a poll is not common practice on Senate. 

Still, Isom continued: “If students don’t want us to do anything about the beef however, I think we shouldn’t touch the beef — because at the end of the day it’s my job to represent the interests of the entire student body. As far as I’m concerned, we will probably always have some beef at Pitzer.”

Troendle added that Pitzer dining has consistently supported environmental sustainability initiatives.

“Bon Appetit, our food service vendor, is committed to sustainable practices such as local sourcing and organic,” she said. “For more than a decade, Pitzer has had a compost program for food waste. The college was one of the first in the country to implement trayless dining and recyclable to-go boxes.” 

Falk and Sjoberg commended Pitzer’s previous efforts but said they’re not enough.

“We need to be doing more,” they said. “The goal cannot be to look good in comparison to others, but to genuinely commit to all mitigation efforts in hopes of slowing climate change.”

Troendle also disagreed with the students’ assessment that the ban would significantly affect sustainability practices at McConnell. 

“Beef currently constitutes less than five percent of food spending, and less than two percent in volume at the McConnell dining hall,” she added. 

Falk and Sjoberg said some in the Pitzer community have told them they’re concerned about the ban’s impact on cultural dishes comprised of beef. 

“We believe that the wide array of alternative protein sources will provide sufficient options to alleviate those concerns,” they said. 

This article was last updated Dec. 9 at 7:59 p.m.

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